Kunjar Boi

Open House on Caste

On the 29th of June, 2022, the SC/ST cell of IIT Bombay organised an open house on caste. It was the first such event organised by an official institute body and saw participation from students, faculty and the non-teaching staff of IIT Bombay. Participants were given a safe platform to speak about their experiences and voice their opinions to encourage a healthy discussion about the way caste influences life at IIT Bombay. One participant voiced that awareness about other kinds of inequality was much higher compared to caste and so it was important for this open house to take place frequently and for people of the institute to be more aware and sensitive to the issue of caste-based discrimination.

Some speakers pointed out how caste is often invisible, it doesn’t formally play a role in your life after admissions but it shows up in subtler ways that can alienate you from your batchmates and can often lead to people interacting only with others from similar backgrounds. “Caste is like spectacles, you see the world through them but you never see the spectacles themselves," a participant quoted to describe how caste was viewed in the institute. Another point addressed in the session was regarding how it is often hard for people not belonging to one of these communities to understand the privileges that they might have enjoyed in life. Things that are taken for granted by someone from a more privileged background are struggles for people from the community and they bring these struggles with them to the campus. It was pointed out that coming in through reservation students may have feelings of imposter syndrome, wherein they feel like they don’t belong here and are unable to interact with people openly as caste is still an uncomfortable topic of discussion for many people on campus. Some students also mentioned how they were told not to tell people that they are from the SC/ST community as it will affect the way people view them. Some postgraduates mentioned that their guides finding out their caste and discriminating against them was a constant worry for them.

The topic of reservation was also discussed in the open house. Reservation was introduced to ensure equality and adequate representation of communities that are socially and educationally backward due to lack of resources and the prevalent caste system. However, despite possible economic progress, they continue to remain socially disadvantaged and discriminated against. Some speakers said they understand the frustration some students might feel due to reservation but that it is important to look at the other point of view and understand why it exists and is still a requirement. People from the SC/ST community also talked about instances where their achievements are attributed to reservations and their caste results in their hard work and struggles often not being recognised. They went on to say this can be demotivating for people and often negatively impacts their state of mind. Some people also pointed out that the expectations they had from IITB of being an inclusive campus were not met. Some of them felt the burden of their caste here more than they had in their schools, possibly pointing to conflicts around reservation for this.

There were a lot of interesting points brought up during the session and the SC/ST cell would be conducting more such events to foster discussion in the future. The insight team would encourage people to participate in these events to understand life at IITB from diverse perspectives. It is a safe platform facilitated by the cell to put your opinions forward and to work towards making the campus more inclusive.